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Atmospheric Science|College of Engineering and Applied Science

Curriculum Philosophy

Department of Atmospheric Science
Graduate Core Curriculum Revision
March 21, 2006

Objectives -

The development of a professional atmospheric scientist requires experience with both theoretical and practical tools. The latter include computer programming languages, data visualization interfaces, statistical data analysis techniques and atmospheric measurement systems. In addition, there is demand for practitioners with an understanding of the synergy between theory and observation, how this synergy furthers the overall goal of knowledge creation and how its application can lead to the resolution of problems imposed by changing physical and societal constraints. Given these demands, and the evolution of the scientific workplace that has occurred in the twenty years since our last curriculum revision, we are guided by three overarching objectives:

Objective 1 - Incorporate "real-life" problem solving into the curriculum. The first step in this direction, as well as the one that has the most impact on the revision, is the splitting of four core graduate courses into theoretical and problem sections. In the problem sections we will employ group learning, project-based assignments and one-on-­one teacher-student engagement. Expected outcomes are the promotion of active learning (as opposed to passive note taking) (Manogue and Krane, 2003), the acceleration of competency with computer coding, and improved understanding of atmospheric measurement systems. This objective also facilitates the bridging between coursework and graduate research.

Objective 2 - Maintain a core curriculum that accommodates the pedagogical needs of all graduate student categories: a) those terminating with a Master of Science degree, b) those with potential for doctoral studies, and c) those of true doctoral caliber. This is important even in light of demands placed on ATSC to graduate more students with a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science. Regardless of shifts in the make-up of the ATSC student body, for instance those that result due to the current emphasis on Ph.D. degrees, we feel that our program must cater to the development of both MS-level and Ph.D.-level students. Hence, the curriculum revision is constrained by policy set by the requirements for entry into the federal civil service meteorological positions (see Assessment below).

Objective 3 - Renew focus on atmospheric phenomenon of horizontal scale smaller than a few hundred of kilometers (i.e., the mesoscale). In contrast to the existing curriculum, with significant investment in the description of phenomenon at larger scales (e.g., the synoptic scale), the revised curriculum recognizes the changing make-up of the ATSC faculty and their expertise at the mesoscale, and in smaller domains. Further, the revision is consistent with tools utilized by the faculty for their research (e.g., radar, lidar, aircraft- and balloon-based measurement platforms) and is consistent with the Department's reputation for expertise in the observation, and the interpretation, of the internal structure of cloud, and aerosol, fields.

Objective 4 - Recognize the curriculum is dynamic and that several factors will drive changing course content, including student feedback, the discipline of atmospheric science, and changing make up of the faculty. Coordination among the faculty will be needed for implementing these changes, particularly when one faculty is teaching a theoretical section in parallel with another teaching a problem section. Detailed implementation of this coordination will involve a) warehousing of syllabi, notes, assignments and solutions, b) institutionalization of regular meetings for the teaching faculty, and c) periodic updating of textbooks and course material.


Specifics of the Curriculum Revision -

Our plan is outlined in Figures 1 and 2 with the new courses indicated in red and the revised core graduate curriculum indicated by asterisks. We are proposing to discontinue six graduate-level courses (ATSC5000, ATSC5015, ATSC5150, ATSC5170, ATSC5180 and ATSC5190). These six are components of the preexisting core graduate curriculum. In addition, we plan to discontinue nine upper-division undergraduate courses cross-listed with the preexisting graduate curriculum (ATSC4000, ATSC4015, ATSC4020, ATSC4100, ATSC4150, ATSC4160, ATSC4170, ATSC4180 and ATSC4190). Discontinuation of the undergraduate courses is justified by ATSC involvement in the undergraduate Earth System Science program and the low enrollment in the ATSC4000 to ATSC4190 courses.

Eight new courses are proposed for the revised core graduate curriculum (ATSC5001, ATSC5002, ATSC5003, ATSC5004, ATSC5005, ATSC5006, ATSC5007 and ATSC5008). Of these, four are "Problems" courses; this aspect of the revision reflects our objective of injecting more real-life problem solving into the curriculum. Of the four remaining new courses, two place emphasis on expertise in Mesoscale Meteorology and Atmospheric Radiation coming from our most recent faculty hires (B. Geerts and Z. Wang). The remaining two courses present topics found in the old curriculum (Atmospheric Energetics and Microphysics); however, the new courses are packaged into a shorter format (2 versus 3 credit hour) and are complimented by "Problems" courses (ATSC5003 and ATSC5006). In addition, the theory sections of Dynamic Meteorology (ATSC5100) and Synoptic Meteorology (ATSC5160) and are reduced from 4 to 3 credit hours and 3 to 2 credit hours, respectively. All of these actions are formalized in Course Action Request forms.


Bibliography -

Manogue, C.A. and K.S.Krane, Paradigms in physics: Restructuring the upper class, Physics Today, 53-58, 2003

Assessment of ATSC Curriculum and US Government Requirements for GS-1340

Requirements for GS-1340 (Meteorology Series) based on the following website:

A degree in meteorology, atmospheric science, or other natural science major that included at least 24 semester hours of credit in meteorology/atmospheric science including a minimum of:

Category     Description of Category

A                6 semester hours (SH) of atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics*

B                6 SH analysis and prediction of weather systems

C                3 SH physical meteorology

D                2 SH remote sensing of the atmosphere and/or instrumentation

E                6 SH physics, with at least one course that includes laboratory sessions*

F                3 SH ordinary differential equations*

G               At least 9 SH of course work appropriate for a physical science major in any combination of three or more of the following: physical hydrology, statistics, chemistry, physical oceanography, physical climatology, radiative transfer, aeronomy, advanced thermodynamics, advanced electricity and magnetism, light and optics, and computer science.

*There is a prerequisite or corequisity of calculus for course work in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics, physcs, and differential equations. Calculus courses must be appropriate for a physical science major.


Assumed Starting point for entry into the ATSC Graduate Program:

3 semester hours of differential equations

One-year sequence in physics lecture and laboratory courses, with calculus as a prerequisite or corequisite

6 Semester hours of physics lecture

1 semester hour of physics laboratory

ATSC Graduate Curriculum and US Government Requirements for GS-1340

Course # Title SH in ATSC Curriculum Category of Requirement Total SH in ATSC Curriculum U.S. Gov. Requirement
ATSC 5001 Atmospheric Energetics 2 A

ATSC 5003 Problems in Energetics and Radiation 1 A

ATSC 5100 Atmospheric Dynamics 3 A 6 6
ATSC 5004 Problems in Atmospheric Dynamics 1 B

ATSC 5160 Synoptic Meteorology 2 B

ATSC 5007 Problems in Synoptic Meteorology 1 B

ATSC 5008 Mesoscale Meteorology 2 B 6 6
ATSC 5005 Microphysics 2 C

ATSC 5006 Problems in Microphysics 1 C

ATSC 5020 Physical Meteorology Lab 1 C 4 3
ATSC 5002 Atmospheric Radiation 3 D 3 2
Prerequisite College Physics 6 E

Prerequisite College Physics Laboratory 1 E 7 7
Prerequisite Differential Equations 3 F 3 3
UW Elective
3 G

ATSC 5210 Cloud and Precipitation Systems 3 G

ATSC Elective
3 G 9 9

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